SPEECH BY THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR DEFENCE,
MR. PAUL KEHOE, T.D., AT THE REVIEW OF 107th INFANTRY BATTALION - LEAVING IRELAND SHORTLY FOR PEACEKEEPING DUTY IN LEBANON
Custume Barracks, Athlone - 24 October 2012
Lord Mayor, Secretary General, Chief of Staff, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here in Custume Barracks, Athlone, this afternoon to review members of the 107th Infantry Battalion who will be travelling to Lebanon next month for service with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
Firstly, I wish to convey the sincere apologies of the Minister for Defence, Minister Alan Shatter, who is unable to be here today.
This is the second occasion for me as Minister of State at the Department of Defence to be given the honour of reviewing members of the Permanent Defence Force departing for service with UNIFIL- the first occasion being in Kilkenny last November at the review of the 105th Infantry Battalion. Today, I am again reminded of the great pride we can take in all that the Defence Forces have done – and continue to do - as peacekeepers throughout the world.
In the last few days we have all witnessed on our television screens just how volatile Lebanon and the Middle East is at the moment. The peacekeeping role that you will play in Lebanon has an impact not just in the border area but across the country and the wider region. Peace in Lebanon is an international priority and the Irish Defence Forces are playing a central role in promoting peace and giving hope to people in an area where peace and hope are currently in short supply.
Participation in such missions as UNIFIL is a continuation of our proud tradition of supporting the United Nations in the cause of peace and security. It is a tradition that has been built by the committed and dedicated service shown by you and your predecessors for over 50 years. Our involvement in these missions has greatly enhanced the professional capacity and capability of the Defence Forces. Ireland continues to enjoy an excellent reputation in the field of international peacekeeping which has resulted in considerable international goodwill. This is something for which all members of our Defence Forces deserve great credit.
The Government is committed to making a significant contribution to peacekeeping missions. Ireland’s continued participation in missions, such as UNIFIL, is essential to the operational effectiveness of the Defence Forces. The practical application of military skills and training in overseas missions contributes to the capacity of the Defence Forces to carry out its defence, security and support roles both at home and abroad.
As you will all be aware the Irish Defence Forces have extensive experience of Lebanon since the UNIFIL mission was established in 1978. Ireland’s participation for more than thirty years in UNIFIL has illustrated the very positive and practical difference that small countries like Ireland can make in the world's trouble spots. The United Nations has stated that UNIFIL plays a vital role in stabilising southern Lebanon, and in particular the area adjacent to Israel, where Irish troops are deployed.
Personnel of the 106th Battalion currently deployed to UNIFIL are tasked primarily with patrolling, reconnaissance, and manning static posts, while operating in close coordination and cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces in Sector West of UNIFIL’s area of operations.
I had the opportunity of visiting the 105th Battalion in Lebanon in March of this year. The visit to Lebanon gave me the chance to see, at first hand, the dedication and professionalism of our military personnel and the tremendous work done overseas by the Irish Defence Forces. I conveyed to the troops our deep appreciation for the outstanding manner in which they continue to perform their duties on overseas service.
You, the members of the 107th Infantry Battalion, will be continuing the work undertaken by the 106th Infantry Battalion alongside a contingent of the Armed Forces of Finland as part of a joint Irish/Finnish battalion in UNIFIL. You will be making a valuable contribution to the peace and security in the region. You will be occupying the new Irish/Finnish Battalion Headquarters - UN Post 2-45 – to which the 106th Infantry Battalion completed relocation last week. I understand that the new Headquarters, also to be known as ‘Camp Shamrock’, is located south of Tibnin close to At Tiri in the centre of the Irish/Finnish Battalion’s area of operations.
Soldiers from 28 counties around Ireland are represented in the 107th Infantry Battalion. For 62 of you, this is your first tour of duty overseas while one man, Company Sergeant Fintan Lamb of the Battalion, has 15 previous tours abroad, including 9 with UNIFIL. He is followed closely by Sgt Major William Casey with 14 pervious tours overseas. These are both impressive records of service to Ireland.
Notable also are the strong family ties within the 107th Infantry Battalion with four sets of father and sons and three sets of brothers bound for Lebanon. I know that you will all work hard to maintain and enhance Ireland’s reputation.
I know the burden that separation from family and loved ones places on you. I am delighted to see so many of your families and friends here today to bid you farewell and wish you a safe return home. The support and encouragement of your family and friends is of vital importance to the success of all overseas missions. I thank them for that support, which enables you to serve abroad and thereby help to protect and save the lives of countless numbers of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.
Performing your duties overseas can require considerable sacrifices. I know the dangers you will face and the hardships you will be expected to endure as part of your service overseas. However, the Minister will continue to ensure, that Defence Forces personnel serving on all overseas missions are equipped with the essential training and equipment they require. The Military authorities have assured the Minister that all appropriate security measures are in place to ensure the safety of all Defence Forces personnel serving in Lebanon. You will be in our thoughts and prayers throughout the duration of your tour of duty.
Let me conclude by again reiterating, the pride of the entire Nation in the achievements and standards set by the Defence Forces on this UN mission and similar missions. We may be a small nation, but we can stand tall when it comes to helping some of the most beleaguered people on this planet.
On behalf of Minister Shatter and myself, I would like to wish your Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel David Dignam , and to all members of the 107th Infantry Battalion a safe and successful mission. You are travelling to Lebanon with our best wishes and with those of the rest of the nation.
Thank you very much.
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